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2013 Notebook

From the late 90s I blogged frequently with various random observations and things I wanted to record. Pre-2003 material seems to have been lost on various early web platforms, and this sort of stuff went over to Twitter eventually, but I’ve gathered together the shorter WordPress blog posts in these annual roundups…

The Eurovision Song Contest 2013 Winner. Probably.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

I bloody love the Eurovision Song Contest, me. Always have. I love the campness of the event, the absurdity of the voting and the way that any song which isn’t 100% Eurovision gets swept under the carpet. I love how people get all worked up about the fact that decent songs from unloved countries (like the UK) get no votes, while dreadful 90s-influenced disco tracks from tiny eastern European states get a whole string of douze points.
There are rarely any songs which live on in the memory more than a few days after the event. But who cares? Probably the last great Eurovision song was Fairytale by Norway’s Alexander Rybak in 2009. This is great not because it’s a mainstream hit, but because it’s the kind of joyous, catchy song which you only get in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Anyway, with just over a week to go until the 2013 finals, and a Spotify playlist to hand, I can report that this year’s contest isn’t going to provide the soundtrack to the summer. As usual. But it is going to be fun. As usual.
Runaway favourite with the bookies is Only Teardrops by Denmark’s Emmelie De Forest, which is quite unremarkable. The best thing it’s got going for it is that it’s from a Scandinavian country, one of two regions of Europe which have enough local solidarity to stand a chance at the final hurdle (Sweden won last year). She looks presentable enough. Oh, and the song sounds like Shakira, so nobody will find it too alienating.

The main competition – according to the bookies – is from Ukraine’s Zlata Ognevich with Gravity. Again, not exactly distressing on the eye.

There’s a standout song for me, however, which is none of the above. No, it’s not the UK’s Bonnie Tyler, bless her. I saw one of her early Top Of The Pops appearances on BBC Four the other day, and wondered what she’d have thought back then if she’d known she’d be in the Eurovision Song Contest thirty-five years later. Best of British and all that, but the song I think is worth looking out for is Birds by Anouk, representing The Netherlands. It’s got an almost sixties psychedelic vibe about it …and it’s really good. Whether it’s happy-clappy enough to win the competition is another matter, especially as The Netherlands doesn’t have a strong voting bloc of countries behind it. But despite its handicaps, the bookies certainly aren’t writing it off, and nor am I.

What does a manager have to do to stay in a job nowadays?

Tuesday 14 May 2013

So here they are: the eight managers who won the main trophies or league titles in English football in the 2011-12 season …and what happened to them twelve months down the line. I guess the table speaks for itself. Well done Charlton Athletic and Chris Powell.
2011-2012 League and Trophy winning managers

The Class of ’63

Sunday 2 June 2013

I’ve had this theory for some time now that the reason I never set the world alight as a child was the competition from the freakishly talented generation which I grew up in. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it anyway. Having just had a fiftieth birthday, I’ve become aware of just how many talented people are celebrating the same milestone, and it’s really reminded me of how extraordinary the rest of my school year were, especially the younger half. So a happy birthday to all these people born between March and August 1963, and from whom the best may be yet to come…
alexAlex Kingston (born 11 March 1963) “Hello Sweetie.”
davidtDavid Thewlis (born 20 March 1963) “Now repeat after me – without wands please – repeat after me… Riddikulus!”
quentinQuentin Tarantino (born 27 March 1963) “I steal from every movie ever made.”
grahamGraham Norton (born 4 April 1963) “Do I have more depth than I’m given credit for? No!”
gary kasparovGarry Kasparov (born 13 April 1963) “When your house is on fire, you can’t be bothered with the neighbours. Or, as we say in chess, if your King is under attack, don’t worry about losing a pawn on the queenside.”
moysieDavid Moyes (born 25 April 1963) “Everton are the people’s club, the people on the street support Everton.”
brantDavid Schneider (born 22 May 1963) “This week, Bill Clinton has shown that, like Icarus, he can’t stand the political heat”
mikeMike Myers (born 25 May 1963) “Schwing…”
simon armitageSimon Armitage (born 26 May 1963) “I’m not playing ball boy any longer”
helen sharmanHelen Sharman (born 30 May 1963) “Space is grand and being part of it makes people feel grand”
mike-joyceMike Joyce (born 1 June 1963) “There is no ‘plea’ from me urging Morrissey to consider reuniting the band in a bid to please fans. Nor will there ever be.”
jasonJason Isaacs (born 6 June 1963) “Hello to Jason Isaacs”
johnnyJohnny Depp (born 9 June 1963) “Captain Jack Sparrow is like a cross between Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew.”
Jan PinkavaJan Pinkava (born 21 June 1963) “I was a geek, I still am I suppose” (Author’s note: Jan is the only person on this list who actually was in my school class!)
montyColin Montgomerie (born 23 June 1963) “I played great on the back nine and got nothing out of it”
George MichaelGeorge Michael (born 25 June 1963) “I’ve been very well remunerated for my talents over the years so I really don’t need the public’s money”
Mark KermodeMark Kermode (born 2 July 1963) “I just sat there thinking: you know, of all the things I didn’t want in the world, this is pretty much top of the heap.”
Tracey EminTracey Emin (born 3 July 1963) “The other day I hated my art so much I wanted to smash it, like you abuse a faithful lover”
Nigel-Blackwell-of-Half-Man-Half-BiscuitNigel Blackwell (born 18 July 1963) “I tend to compose melodies on Sunday evenings
and then words of a Tuesday afternoon which I then sometimes forward to for further opinion”

yannYann Martel (born 25 June 1963) “I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”
lisaLisa Kudrow (born 30 July 1963) “I don’t know, it’s just, you know…monkeys, Darwin, you know, it’s a, it’s a nice story, I just think it’s a little too easy”
normanNorman Cook (born 31 July 1963) “How tremendous is Fatboy Slim? The band of the nineties, if you wanna call it a band, because it’s a one man name…”
jamesJames Hetfield (born 3 August 1963) “It’s all fun and games ’till someone loses an eye, then it’s just fun you can’t see.”
whitney houstonWhitney Houston (born 9 August 1963) “I will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu”
toriTori Amos (born 22 August 1963) “An angel’s face is tricky to wear constantly”
simon-miltonSimon Milton (born 22 August 1963) “Mick, I am still available if needed”
markMark Strong (born 30 August 1963) “Individually, we are vulnerable. Together, we are unstoppable!”
oakenfoldPaul Oakenfold (born 30 August 1963) “It’s not over, not over, not over, not over yet”

James Joyce – Ulysses – Reading Guide Review and Notes

Friday 14 June 2013

You could argue that the best way to read James Joyce’s Ulysses is to just get stuck into it – but I do think this can be difficult. That’s why a reading guide is so helpful. Probably the best two books to help guide your way through reading Ulysses are The Bloomsday Book by Harry Blamaires and Ulysses Annotated by Don Gifford, but here’s a look at some of your choices of reading guide.
(Links are to Amazon UK; see end of article for Amazon US links*)
The Bloomsday Book is a chapter by chapter guide and synopsis which gives background detail and context to Ulysses. The level of detail it provides is not exacting and it is written in a clear and accessible way. It is generally considered the the best “road map” for finding your way through the complexities of Joyce’s novel. The third edition uses the page numbering and references to three commonly read editions of Ulysses: the Gabler ‘Corrected Text’ (86) edition, the Oxford University Press ‘World Classics’ edition (93), and the Penguin ‘Twentieth-Century Classics’ (1992) edition.
Ulysses Annotated is a specialised encyclopaedia of Ulysses which gives
detail of the names, places, slang terms, religious rituals and so on which fill every page of the novel. It can be a bit cumbersome jumping back and forth between the novel and Gifford’s book, but as far as depth of detail there is probably no better reference book for helping you get the most out of Ulysses. The latest edition uses the page numbering and references to the Critical & Synoptic edition (Gabler 84) & the 1961 Random House edition – which is virtually identical to the current Modern Library & Vintage texts.
One of the first guides to the novel that was written was James Joyce’s Ulysses by Stuart Gilbert (it was written with some guidance and advice from Joyce himself). It is a clear and useful guide
– though I’ve always found its tone more academic and stiff than Blamaires’ book.
One other option available now is to read Ulysses in its Kindle edition, or on any other tablet device, where you can check any reference on Wikipedia or Google. I’ve found that I’m doing this more and more, but I’ve also found that it distracts me from my reading.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Joyce’s style and technique in the first couple of chapters is the way the narrative moves from brief external descriptions of various objects or people and of dialogue to describing the thought process of Stephen Dedalus (and in later chapters Leopold Bloom). These thoughts are reactions to external objects or to nature, and to the other characters and what they do and say – but then these thoughts begin to react to other earlier thoughts and to random memories. In the first couple of chapters this stream of consciousness is not especially difficult to follow, despite Joyce’s reluctance to place these thought in context (or to use punctuation). However, in the third chapter, Dedalus’s thoughts fly off all over the place and it is here that you’ll need a good working knowledge of classical languages, history and literature, the history of philosophy and of philosophical investigation, of Irish history, of early twentieth century Irish politics, of the geography of Dublin, of Catholicism and so on and so on – to really get to grips with what’s happening. Or you can buy a guide – or use the internet.
If you are still unsure about reading this book, I think this Economist article on Why You Should Read Ulysses makes a good case.
If you are going to just get stuck into reading the book I have found that the book becomes more accessible when read out loud. Maybe it’s worth reading along to the audiobook of Ulysses? The audiobook read by Jim Brennan (who played Bishop Len Brennan in Father Ted) is excellent. It may seem odd reading the book whilst listening the audiobook of that book – but the last time I read Ulysses that’s what I did …and it was brilliant, thanks in no small part to Jim Brennan’s delivery. The price of the audiobook is daunting – but it’s way cheaper if you buy it via Audible (although you have to sign up). If you do sign up then you should be able to buy the audiobook for £3.99 at Audible UK.

*Amazon USA:The Bloomsday Book by Harry BlamairesUlysses Annotated by Don GiffordJames Joyce’s Ulysses by Stuart GilbertUlysses Kindle editionUlysses audiobook
*Amazon UK:The Bloomsday Book by Harry BlamairesUlysses Annotated by Don GiffordJames Joyce’s Ulysses by Stuart GilbertUlysses Kindle editionUlysses audiobook

Spotify playlist for the 2013 Cambridge Folk Festival

Monday 22 July 2013

I’ve been making a Spotify playlist for the 2013 Cambridge Folk Festival over the past few months. Get in the mood (or if you’re reading this after the event, re-live the memories) with over 300 songs from artists on the bill!

Why England cannot afford to lose in Kiev on Tuesday

Saturday 7 September 2013

This just in from my mate Andy:
Nik and I went along to see the Moldova game last night and as we left, folks were crowing about us being top of the group. But this is a rather false position, we think – and will the 9 goals scored by Ukraine come back to haunt us? Should we have kicked on to score more goals, rather than take our feet off the gas?
Interestingly, Ukraine still have San Marino to play again, and it started us thinking about the real position in this group. A three goal loss in Ukraine (six goal swing), followed by another 9 goal thrashing and our goal difference won’t look as clear as it does currently.
We looked at the remaining games and the various permutations.
Tuesday 10th September 2013 San Marino v Poland 19:45 Ukraine v England 19:45
Friday 11th October 2013 England v Montenegro Kick-off TBC Moldova v San Marino Kick-off TBC Ukraine v Poland Kick-off TBC
Tuesday 15th October 2013 England v Poland Kick-off TBC Montenegro v Moldova Kick-off TBC San Marino v Ukraine Kick-off TBC
Assuming that San Marino lose all their games and Moldova only win against San Marino, the final points position will be:

PointsMatches leftFinal Points
Montenegro (Mn)15E, Mv18+E (Points against E)
England (E)15U, Mn, P15+U+Mn+P
Ukraine (U)14E, P, S17+E+P
Poland (P)10S, U, E13+U+E
Moldova (Mv)5S, Mn8
San Marino (S)0P, Mv, U0

In other words, we (England) are in third place with the following four meaningful games to play:
1. U v E 2. E v Mn 3. U v P 4. E v P
Since each of these games can be a home win (a), draw (b) or away win (c), there are 81
permutations to look at. And I have!
🙂 Here are the final points for each team, for each possible outcome for the four matches above:

1-2-3-4 resultEMnUPEngland FinishGroup Winner
a-c-b-a182121143U (Mn)
a-c-b-b162121153U (Mn)
a-c-b-c152121174U (Mn)
b-a-c-c191818191E (P)
b-b-b-b181919153U (Mn)
b-b-b-c171919173U (Mn)
b-c-a-a192121133U (Mn)
b-c-a-b172121143U (Mn)
b-c-a-c162121163U (Mn)
c-b-b-c191918171E (Mn)
c-b-c-c191917191E (Mn, P)
c-c-a-a212120131E (Mn)
c-c-b-a212118141E (Mn)

Out of 81 permutations
33 Ukraine wins group 28 England wins group 4 Ukraine or England wins group (goal difference) 15 Montenegro wins group 1 Montenegro or Poland wins group (goal difference)
If England win in Ukraine, out of 27 permuations
19 England wins group 2 Ukraine or England wins group (goal difference) 1 Ukraine wins group 5 Montenegro wins group
If England draw in Ukraine, out of 27 permutations
8 England wins group 1 Ukraine or England wins group (goal difference) 10 Ukraine wins group 7 Montenegro wins group 1 Montenegro or Poland wins group (goal difference)
If England lose in Ukraine, out of 27 permutations
22 Ukraine wins group 1 Ukraine or England wins group (goal difference) 3 Montenegro wins group 1 England wins group
If England draw in Ukraine, then beat Montenegro, out of 9 permutations
6 England wins group 1 Ukraine or England wins group (goal difference) 2 Ukraine wins group
If England draw in Ukraine, then draw with Montenegro, then beat Poland, out of 3 permutations
2 England wins group 1 Ukraine wins group

The Rise of the Video Blogger

Monday 23 September 2013

I’m pleased this morning to be part of the launch of, a new site which is setting out to highlight the best YouTube channels from the UK. Covering a whole range of subjects, the site will chronicle the rise of YouTube as an entertainment destination in its own right. Top channels from regular broadcasters such as JacksGap regularly get over a million views for their videos (sometimes several million), which makes them more watched than almost any “big name” TV show on, for example, Channel 4. But you’ll rarely see this discussed in the press, never mind on TV, for obvious reasons. People making their own video entertainment is the biggest threat there’s ever been to the current national broadcasting setup. But the kids love it, as they say. To see the best stuff, start with this introductory article from our launch editor Ian: Who Are The Top 5 YouTube UK Video bloggers?

iOS7: text too light? How to make it more bold

Sunday 29 September 2013

I caught a member of my family griping about Apple’s iOS7 operating system yesterday, saying the new font used system-wide was too light to read easily. “What about people with seriously impaired vision?”, she said. “Surely they make allowance for that?”
Which of course set me thinking. Of course they do. So there must be a setting to improve the legibility of the type for those without the sight of a 12-year-old. It didn’t take long to find. Launch the Settings app, click General and then Accessibility. Here you’ll find all of these things to play with:
Change type to bold in iOS7
You’ll see “Bold Text” as an option. This doesn’t seem to have an impact in every app, but it certainly does in most places. You can also try “Larger Type” and “Increase Contrast”.
How to Reduce Motion in iOS7
There’s also an option under Accessibility to “Reduce Motion”. This turns off the “parallax” effect which most people find cool, but others find a little nauseous. However, the bouncing message bubbles and the “app zooming” you’re going to have to live with, for now. I imagine there’ll be an update soon to address the issue, as I suspect Apple didn’t see the movement being such a problem to so many people.

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